Sorcery and the Lowly Onion

Baked Onions with Rosemary and Cream

Cultural Perspectives

By Tim Hazell

Occult rituals were often aligned with the seasons and animal behavior. Certain plants had supernatural powers associated with black magic and healing properties. The onion was worshiped in ancient Egypt and invoked while taking oaths. Settlers in New England hung strings of onions over doorways to guard against infections, and a cut onion placed beneath the kitchen sink was used for the same purpose. An onion under the pillow was said to produce prophetic dreams.

Here are some of its other magical uses:

Take a small white onion, stick it full of black-headed pins, and place it in a window to prevent the intrusion of evil into the home. Carry an onion to give protection against venomous beasts. Halved or quartered onions will absorb negativity as well as disease.

The Basque people of the western Pyrenees on the border between France and Spain employed birch oil to anoint skin and objects associated with strong emotions. Themes of witchcraft and divination surface in this excerpt from Basque verse.

Worm worm hou hou!

Look old!  Look old!

Lord the Red, Lord the Red,

The Ram in the heights, The Ram has come…


Occult lore has inspired movements in revolution and art. Icons of Social Realism such as Francisco José de Goya (1746-1828) dared to champion enlightened thinking in Spain with his series of Caprichios prints. The infamous “Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters” opened doors to a new and uncompromising psychology of perception. His paintings, drawings, and prints delineated an urban landscape of hypocrisy and suffering; in his words “the innumerable foibles and follies to be found in any civilized society.”

Nutritionists recommend the use of onions, garlic, leeks, and shallots because of their healing effects on major degenerative diseases such as atherosclerosis, diabetes, and cancer. Onions are versatile companions to almost any meal. Baked with rosemary and cream, this humble bulb becomes a culinary centerpiece.


Onions Baked with Rosemary and Cream

4 to 6 servings

4 to 6 medium onions

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

3 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped

1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Slice about 1/4 inch off of the tops and bottoms of the onions. Arrange cut side up in a shallow baking dish. Pour the stock over and around the onion halves, and then drizzle with olive oil. Season liberally with salt, pepper, and rosemary. Place foil underneath to catch any splatters that may occur. Bake uncovered for 1 and 1/2 hours, basting often, until onions are easily pierced with a knife and liquid has reduced by half. Remove and pour cream over the onions. Return to the oven, and continue to bake uncovered until the pan juices have thickened slightly and onions are browned; up to 30 minutes. Serve as a side dish with an accompanying main course or as a vegetarian entree.


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